At some companies the phrase is said out loud, while at others it’s a fleeting thought in the founders’ minds. At the best early-stage companies, the phrase surfaces every few weeks, and at struggling ones, it arises every few hours.

The phrase is We’re Fucked, It’s Over, or WFIO.

Low engagement rates, a big deal falling through, Google opening a competitive product or feature, or even losing a key employee can bring on an exclamation of WFIO. Too many consecutive days of saying or thinking WFIO, and you’ll internalize it. Leaders will come to the office later because they have a harder time getting out of bed. Employees will start updating their LinkedIn profiles.

WFIO days aren’t necessarily a bad. In fact, these can be the most helpful days an entrepreneur experiences because acknowledging WFIO moments lets you face the realities of your company’s weaknesses. Only then can you form a plan to address those.

We were saying WFIO at ClearGears when, despite all efforts, we failed to find a workable sales model to attract more customers. On the other side, we were failing to keep our existing customers happy. This realization, said aloud, at first had the effect of demoralizing the team. Eventually, though, it revitalized their commitment to sorting it out. Our solution was dramatic: we changed our business. You can see what happened here.

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